North Dakota v. Thomas

Ross Thomas appealed after a jury found him guilty of terrorizing, a class C felony. Trial started on March 28, 2018. The following day, the State and defendant rested, and the case was submitted to the jury. At the end of the day, the jury sent a note to the court stating they had reached a decision on three counts, were hung on one count, and no further progress would be made. The court admonished the jury and ordered them to return on the following Monday, April 2, after a holiday weekend, to continue deliberations on the remaining count. On April 2, 2018, the jury reconvened to continue its deliberations. Before the jury reconvened, however, Thomas’s counsel raised specific allegations to the district court that Thomas had overheard non-jurors discussing the content of jury deliberations and juror decisions in a public setting in town. The court did not conduct a hearing on Thomas’s allegations at that time but stated it would “let [Thomas] challenge any verdict made in a subsequent motion after there’s notice and opportunity for both parties to be prepared.” After further deliberation, the jury subsequently returned not-guilty verdicts on the aggravated assault and reckless endangerment charges and returned a guilty verdict on the terrorizing charge. The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on the felonious restraint charge, and the court declared a mistrial on that charge. The district court sentenced Thomas on the terrorizing charge, and a criminal judgment was entered.The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in denying Thomas a hearing on alleged juror communications with non-jurors, which were discovered and brought to the court’s attention while the jury was deliberating and were alleged to be related to matters on which the jury had deliberated and the jury’s decisions. The matter was remanded for a new trial. View "North Dakota v. Thomas" on Justia Law